I am reminded today of something that on one hand is so simple and at the very same time…so hard.
This isn’t heaven.
I know that sounds silly perhaps…of course this isn’t heaven. But at times I feel as if that is what “we” are working towards. The goals of ministries, of organizations, of couples, of families, of churches, of sports teams…we all set goals and objectives with the desire to see success (whatever that is). In short, we are expecting/hoping/praying/working toward heaven.
A meeting wherein the discussion is getting a children’s home funded. Ideas are generated but I am sure that no one in the room is thinking…”if we do all these things then we’ll still have months without the ability to pay our bills and we may lose the building.”
Or at a board meeting as discussions of deficits plague the financial outlook because camper numbers are down, no one is wanting to think…”if we don’t see these numbers come up, then the camp closes.”
Or in a discussion about bringing peace and community growth in a former war-torn country, no one is wanting to say, “..and while we discuss and try to build, hundreds of children will die of starvation and/or disease, hate will continue to grow, and no one will want to give to this unless we paint a rosy picture of success.”
Or in a new believer’s life will they think, “wow, I’m going to have days that will be harder than anything I have faced yet!”
Why? I’m sure there are many reasons…some fear looking at a hard side because it is too difficult. Some because they are not ever taught to ‘count the cost’ and some don’t want the pain of recognizing what a fallen world really looks like.
I still remember the first time we showed our children how their meat goes from eating grass in the pasture next door towards the journey of becoming a small wrapped package in the freezer. It was a difficult discussion/demonstration but it developed in them an appreciation of what gets placed on the plate and the ‘cost’ of eating.
Our natural tendency is to plan towards something and hope/pray for the outcome. Ministry is no different. If you are one of those who dwells on the down side you don’t get invited out a lot…start a conversation in a group talking about how a 15 year old girl was “married” off to a 52 year man by her parents and suddenly those listening need to leave for an important meeting! Or point out something from a paper on prostitution in Thailand:
“Other girls become prostitutes out of a sense of duty or obligation to their parents, to share the family’s economic burden. When the family is in great debt resulting from failure in agricultural production of even simply from the father’s gambling losses, the eldest daughters are asked to ” sacrifice” for their parents and their younger siblings. There are cases where fathers sold and re – sold their daughters into prostitution to buy extra cows for farming. This is done in the belief that children must show “gratitude” to their parents.,”
And you might be asking yourself, “Self…why is Len bringing this up?” Because at times we need to look at the darker side of this world. We need to sit in the same pain that our Father sits with. We need to recognize that our own desire for a ‘happy ending’ is a reflection of what God has written on our hearts about redemption! We need to remember….
….this isn’t heaven!
But we work toward making it better. And I believe we are supposed to…but we will live in the tension of “finished and not yet.” The idea that while Jesus has paid the ultimate price for our redemption, and that at some time, God restores the world with a new heaven and a new earth, and the victory has been won…it is finished and not yet. It is to come.
And in the meantime, we must spend time rejoicing and finding delight in what God has already done and in the reflections of His glory in a still fallen world WHILE we spend time and effort recognizing that we have a role to play in the overall. That we are to be His hands and feet and heart and healing touch!
We need to recognize our own transformation of heart taking place when day by day we become more like Jesus! And we need to long for a time when ‘every tear is wiped away’ but know that it isn’t yet and that we must do what we can to wipe every tear within our reach and then stretch our arms further. We need to empower and train and mentor others to do the same and allow God’s Holy Spirit to work in them as they further the work and word of the Gospel.
We need to love well!
So today, take some time think and pray about situations that cause you pain or your heart to grieve. Thank the Lord for those moments…acknowledge that it is uncomfortable but a needed recognition that He is not finished yet. And then ask…”Father, what would you have me do?” Listen for the still small voice and follow it up with “thank you for the opportunity to serve. Amen.”
May you be blessed this day with a clear word from the Spirit!